Meditation Retreats

Former Somerset hotel where William Wordsworth lived could become Buddhist retreat

A former hotel in Somerset, where one of England’s greatest poets once lived, could, according to new proposals, be “reborn” into a Buddhist retreat center.

The Alfoxton Park Hotel in Holford was the home of William Wordsworth (whose works include Daffodils and The Prelude) and his sister Dorothy for one year in 1797.

The hotel was bought by a Buddhist charity for £ 1.4m in late 2020 after being largely empty for the past 15 years.

The trust entrusted with the maintenance of the building has now submitted plans for how the main house should be put back into operation as a retreat with on-site accommodation.

The hotel is located in the northern half of the Quantock Hills Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), 12 miles from Bridgwater and 17 miles from Taunton and Minehead.

During his brief stay there, Wordsworth composed Lyrical Ballads with fellow poet and close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge – a collection that included his epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, inspired by Watchet Harbor.

The Alfoxton Park Hotel in Holford

The house was used to house American troops during World War II but fell into disrepair after the hotel closed in the mid-2000s and found its way onto the risk register of historic England.

West Somerset Council had to take enforcement action against a property developer in 2010 after it was discovered that the run-down complex was being used to house Polish workers, the BBC reported.

The Alfoxton Park Trust, which purchased the property in late 2020, has submitted plans to Somerset West and Taunton Council detailing how the main house will be brought back into service.

A spokesperson said: “Our vision is to make Alfoxton Park, a large and beautiful Grade II listed building and an important part of Britain’s literary heritage, a major new retreat for the Triratna Buddhist community.

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“We believe this will be a successful, creative and appropriate use of this very special building. Alfoxton will join the other eight retreat centers that Triratna already operates across the UK and that are all thriving.”

The facility is used by the Triratna Buddhist Community, an ecumenical Buddhist movement founded in 1967 that “is dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world”.

Once all work is completed, there will be three types of on-site retreats – artistic and creative retreats for the “literary wing” of the movement; long meditation retreats; and “elementary” outdoor retreats on the premises.

Visitors can use the facility on a “give what they can” basis rather than flat-rate fees. The Trust argues that this “may result in an increase, not a decrease, in income, possibly counterintuitively”.

The Alfoxton Park Hotel in Holford

The Alfoxton Park Hotel in Holford

The main house will form the retreat center with space for events and accommodation, while the carriage house on the site will become a permanent residential community.

More barns on the site will be renovated in the coming years. The former tennis court is used as a parking lot.

A spokesman said: “The buildings have been vacant for over 15 years and the roof and asbestos are leaking throughout. They are all uninhabitable in their current condition.

“The work will be carried out as a self-construction project by the future community members who have experience with construction projects. Therefore, the proposed phasing of the work should provide suitable living accommodation for them as soon as possible.”

While the first phase of the work is being carried out, the members of the ward will live in a cabin and 12 caravans on the premises, with the trust ensuring that their position is “as discreet as possible”.

The council is expected to take a final decision on the plans later this year.

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